A common question among Christians is “What is allowed in the bedroom?” or “Are there any activities we’re not allowed to do during sex?” This is a confusing topic, mostly, because we (the church) have made it confusing. I think the Bible is pretty clear on it if you read it as a whole and see God’s attitude towards marriage, and I’m going to attempt to show bits and pieces of what I mean. Unfortunately, I can’t do a full job of showing the entire picture, because that would be an entire book. But, we can take a quick jump through the Bible to see what it says.
This post is basically in response to a question from a reader (who shall remain nameless, because I didn’t ask if I could share their name):
I have been asked a question a number of times about being a Christian and sex that you are limited to what you are allowed to do in the bedroom (like no oral). From the reading and research in the Bible that I have done basically the only guidelines to sex is:
- One man and one woman
- Within the bounds of marriage
- That which is consensual between the partners.
Basically what I read in the Song of Solomon was to have fun and enjoy each other.
What is your thoughts on the subject? Is there any particular acts that are not allowed in the bedroom?
There is a lot of theology in these three points, and in this post I’m not going to tackle homosexuality or premarital sex, because those are entire posts on their own (but I will at some point). So, what about this “That which is consensual between the partners”. When I first read these 3 points, I thought to myself, here’s a guy that gets it! He is really on the right track. But there is just a little bit missing to that last point. Jay is going to explain it with lots of great detail and theology. I think I would modify this point to be something like “that which builds your spouse up”, and here’s why:
There are couples who will do things to each other, with consent, that will harm each other. I want to stress the word harm here. I don’t mean hurt. There is a difference. Hurt is temporary, harm is more permanent (if not permanent). There are times (outside of sex) that we have to hurt our spouses (not physically, I’m not condoning abuse) in order to progress the marriage. These times include when we must confess something we have done to our spouse. It hurts. It hurts us, it hurts them, but the intent it to heal the damage already done.
This point he makes gets me thinking about things that may be permissible, but not beneficial. The Bible talks about that and is pretty clear that not everything that is permissible is beneficial, and I think these types of acts fall into this category. So if you are thinking of something that you want to do in the bedroom, ask yourself, would this be a blessing to my spouse? Just remember that you don’t have to do something you are completely uncomfortable just because you know the other would love it. That is not what this is about.
There are also times, when spouses choose to hurt (with consent) each other (or one) during sex, in the form of spanking, pinching, love bites, using fingernails, etc.. This is due to the fact that pain and pleasure set off the same nerves circuits in our brains, so the lines can become blurred, and pain can increase pleasure, in some cases. I’m not saying go and do it, I’m saying some people do. This is not what we’re addressing in this post either.
What I mean is those activities which will cause harm, either emotionally, physically, or spiritually.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
This verse from Thessalonians is meant for all Christians, we are to build each other, but how much more so then does this apply to husbands and wives? We should act, at all times, especially with our spouses, to build them up, not tear them down. To treat their body as God’s temple, as we are to treat our own. To encourage their spiritual growth, not hinder it. So think about how you can apply this philosophy to your sex life. How would could it change some of the activities you participate in the bedroom and out of the bedroom?
So, where does this leave us? Are there specific acts that are not sanctioned? Yes there are specific acts that aren’t sanctioned, there will be a list at the bottom of this post, but Jay is trying to make another point. Should we even be thinking about it that way? I think perhaps not. So how should we be thinking about it? When we think of the Bible and it’s main message to us, what do you think of?
I believe the message of the Bible is really simple: Love. The entire Bible shows:
- How God loves
- How we should love
I think everything in Bible shows these two points. All the laws (to tell the people how they are to honor and worship God their creator), all the wars (so many deaths, but all, ultimately, for the love of His creation), all the miracles (God hates to see our pain and suffering), the prophecies (He wants to share with us His great plan!), everything can be boiled down to these two points, and it’s not exhaustive. There are many ways in which God shows His love, and continues to show it, that are not cataloged in the Bible. Likewise, there are many ways we show love, or need to show love that are not cataloged in the Bible.
These points are summed up by Jesus easily in:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Luke 10:27, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30-31
If you love me, keep my commands. – John 14:15
And the closer we get to God, the more keenly we are aware of when we have damaged our relationship, without being told by rules and guides in the Bible. Look at Paul’s ministry.
Here is a saying that you can trust. It should be accepted completely. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the worst sinner of all. – 1 Timothy 1:15
Paul calls himself the worst sinner. Is that possible? Likely not. But, I think he was more aware of his sins, those mentioned in the Bible and not, than most of us are of ours. I’ve seen it in my own life. Things I would have done without a second thought earlier in my life would have me recoiling now. And this occurs in all aspects of my life: health, entertainment, finances, sexuality, spirituality. Eventually you get to a point where the things you are NOT doing are recognized as a sin: like skipping devotions or not praying enough, or as subtle as not surrendering to God in everything.
So, what does this have to do with the topic of what Christians can do in bed?
Because I could make a list for you (and Christina has one below), but what you really need isn’t a list. What you really need is a closer relationship with your spouse. Because your list is going to be the things that damage your relationship with your spouse, and that’s going to change as you both grow, and it’s going to be different for every person. Yes, there are some things that are common to all people (humiliation play, for example, I believe would be on that list), but for others: oral sex might be damaging to your relationship, it might be a blessing for another. Not because there is anything wrong with it.
But, if your spouse is so against it (or you are) that it would damage your relationship, then I’d argue, that it is an activity you should not engage in, until such time as your spouse has come to terms with it (if ever). This is where I thought that the original question fits, it has to be “that which is consensual between the partners” Remember to keep your bedroom activities beneficial for both people participating!
Here is a list I am sharing that is from a book (Intimacy Ignited) we are studying with our small group at church, and it’s made up of what I would consider obvious activities that the Bible is clear about. It prohibited these things so that your marriages stays true to what God intended it to be like.
1. Fornication: Fornication is immoral sex. It comes from the Greek word porneia, which means “unclean.” This broad term includes sexual intercourse outside of marriage (see I Corinthians 7:2; I Thessalonians 4:3), sleeping with your stepmother (see I Corinthians 5:1), and sex with a prostitute (see I Corinthians 6:13).
2. Adultery: Adultery, or sex with someone who is not your spouse, is a sin and was punishable in the Old Testament by death (see Leviticus 20:10). In the New Testament, Jesus expanded adultery to mean not just physical acts but also emotional acts in the mind and heart (see Matthew 5:28).
3. Homosexuality: The Bible is very clear that for a man to have sex with a man or a woman to have sex with a woman is detestable to God (see Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:27; I Corinthians 6:9).
4. Impurity: There are several Greek words that are translated as “impurity.” To become “impure” (in Greek, molyno) can mean to lose one’s virginity, or to become defiled due to living out a secular and essentially pagan lifestyle (see 2 Corinthians 7:1; I Corinthians 6:9). The Greek word rupos often refers to moral uncleanness in general (see Revelation 22:11).
5. Orgies: For a married couple to become involved in sex orgies with other couples is an obvious violation of (1), (2), and (4) and therefore doesn’t need to be discussed.
6. Prostitution: Prostitution, which means paying for sex, is morally wrong and condemned throughout Scripture (see Leviticus 19:29; Deuteronomy 23:17; Proverbs 7:4-27).
7. Lustful passions: First, let us tell you what this does not mean. Lustful passion does not refer to the powerful, God-given sexual desire a husband and wife have for one another. Instead, it refers to an unrestrained, indiscriminate sexual desire for men or women other than the person’s marriage partner (see Ephesians 4:19; Mark 7:22).
8. Sodomy: In the Old Testament, sodomy refers to men lying with men. The English word means “unnatural sexual intercourse, especially of one man with another or of a human being with an animal.” Unfortunately, some Christian teachers have erroneously equated sodomy with oral sex. This is not the way the term is used in the Bible. In the Bible, sodomites refers to male homosexuals or temple prostitutes (both male and female). In contemporary usage, the term sodomy is sometimes used of anal intercourse between a man and woman. This is not the meaning of the biblical word.
9. Obscenity and coarse jokes: In Ephesians 4:29, Paul says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.” The Greek word is very descriptive and literally means “rotten” or “decaying.” In Ephesians 5:4, the Bible warns us to avoid “silly talk” or “coarse jesting.” We have all been around people who can see a sexual connotation in some innocent phrase and then begin to snicker or laugh. This is wrong. However, this does not rule out appropriate sexual humor in the privacy of marriage but rather inappropriate sexual comments in a public setting.
10. Incest: Incest, which means sex with family members or relatives, is specifically forbidden in Scripture (see Leviticus 18:7-18; 20:11-21).
What do you think? Do you believe there are any activities that are prohibited in the Christian marriage bed?
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